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Ousted by Amritsar for his religion, freedom fighter’s son counts days in Capital — to return ‘home’

Chinki Sinha,Chinki Sinha

Posted: Aug 05, 2009 at 0244 hrs IST

New Delhi Toufique Kitchlew wrote a page of his memoirs and stopped. It has been eight months since he was forced to leave Amritsar, the city of his birth and where he lived during the tumultuous days leading up to the Partition, since he could not find an accommodation there.

In Lampur on the outskirts of Delhi, where he now lives in a government accommodation, he has picked up the pen often but words never flowed.

Son of legendary freedom fighter Saifuddin Kitchlew, Toufique Kitchlew, 78, remembers roaming around in the lanes of Amritsar distributing pamphlets, collecting money, and participating in protests. It’s the city where he had watched his father rousing the people in his speeches.

In 1947, as their house was burnt down and communal tensions raged, well-wishers told the Kitchlews to leave Amritsar. The family moved to Delhi.

Decades on, that parting still hurts. “That’s my city — I have memories there,” he said. “I don’t want to live here.”

He returned to Amritsar often after that. When he decided to spend the remaining years of his life writing a personal memoir, he decided to go back for good. But in the three months he spent looking for an accommodation, he hit the wall often.

Kitchlew packed and returned to Delhi.

Recently, after he wrote to the Punjab government that he was forced to leave Amritsar since no one would rent out a house to him because of his religion, the Prakash Singh Badal government offered him a rent-free accommodation in Amritsar and a lifetime pension. Kitchlew has accepted the offer but is still waiting for the authorities to tell him his new address in Amritsar.

In the remote Delhi village where he was given quarters by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit earlier this year, Kitchlew lives with Reena, his domestic help, who takes care of him. Arthritic and rheumatic, Kitchlew can’t walk; he never married — he says he didn’t believe in the institution of marriage — and his brothers are dead and two of his surviving sisters are in Pakistan.

“At the university, they often asked me whether I was going to become great like my father,” Kitchew said. “Now I say I am the struggling son of a great father.”

Saifuddin Kitchlew’s family fell on hard times while his children were still young. While there was enough to pay the school fees, there wasn’t enough to replace the old, worn school shoes. “That’s the price we paid for freedom: father would donate all he received to the (freedom) movement.

“And now, there is no place for me in our own city.”

But in his two-room quarters in the Capital’s outskirts, Kitchlew is waiting to get started on his memoirs. “I will start with my mother. I was the youngest — I remember sitting in her lap. I have so many things to tell, so many stories to write. They all forgot us.

“I want to tell them about my father, about us.”

His father’s son
* Born on January 15, 1888 in Amritsar, Saifuddin Kitchlew studied at Cambridge and got Bar at Law from London, and a PhD from Germany
* On return, he established himself as a successful lawyer, and became Municipal Commissioner of Amritsar
* In1919, led protest meeting against Rowlatt Act at Jalianwala Bagh where many were massacred
* Was guiding spirit behind the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, which ‘created’ the likes of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev
* President of Punjab Provincal Congress Committee for several year, he became general secretary of All India Congress Committee in 1924
* Associated himself with the Communist Party after independence

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Toufique Kitchlew by Arif Kitchlew on 09 Apr 2011

I hope you guys still remember Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and what Gen Dyer did there. That protest happened when Dr. Kitchlew was jailed. His picture presided the meeting. Some say that it was the tipping point for the British exit. I would like to thank the Indian Government for putting up Dr Kitchlew's statute in Amritsar, and I would request them to take care of Toufique Uncle as he is a man of his own principles and does as he pleases. He loves his city and the people there. He only expects his people to return his love.

expecting benefits from govt by P.Friedrich Bergius Paul on 30 Jan 2010

I am studing B.E, My grandfather was a freedom fighter.He was died long back after that my grandmother getting pension from central goverment,after that she also died after that my father didnot apply for anything.butnow I need benefits for my studies as wellas job.pls help me how to approch the govt for getting the bebefits. Thanking you

mr by Charan Singh on 08 Aug 2009

Gandhi, was he a freedom fighter or a fraud? Gandhi was created by the British to slow down the freedom movement and to remove all those who were opposed to the British on idiological standpoint, that is those who supported Sviet Union, Gandhi's politics were identical to the politics of the British, all he wanted was that India to be ruled by coconuts, brown outside and white inside. The Congress Party of Gandhi/Nehru wanted India to be like Australia/Canada with the Britsh king/queen as head of state. The Congress Party only changed their policy after Amritsar massacre in 1919.Bhagat Singh and co were not terrorists they understood what it meant to kill innocent people and that is why assembly bomb was designed not to kill.

Insult of MK Gandhi won't be tolerated by Rohit on 06 Aug 2009

This is all farce... There was only one freedom fighter in India MK Gandhi. The rest who were not followers of MK Gandhi were terrorists or British Boot Lickers.

Be human first by Kalidas M on 06 Aug 2009

I would be quite willing to give him benefit of doubt and a proper treatment as a fellow human being. And as a senior citzen at that, too. All other things not withstanding.

There are many freedom fighters by Devendra Patel on 06 Aug 2009

First time I heard about this freedom fighter. In India, Everybody is freedom fighters' (grand)son or (grand)daughter. I wonder how many stories IE will publish.

Harjinder is right to some extent by Dee on 06 Aug 2009

I do not see in this article any reason that his religion is the cause of getting quarter delay. That is the usual story with our governments (state and center) because of Indian peoples' love for fake Gandhis. Appears- Chinki Sinha has not visited any mosques in Punjab. Their membership is increasing day by day since 1000s of Muslims from UP and Bihar come to work here. It is another lamd story similar to flop actor's Irfan.

Shame ! by Bikram Singh on 06 Aug 2009

Shame that he couldn't find a place to live in Amritsar despite knowing that he is from freedom fighter's family. Punjab Government allowed the pension and a free place to live but sadly, i don't think they are going to keep their promise. I rather be happy knowing if someone helped him privately rather relying on government bodies. Hope he get his wish !

tragic story by madan gupta on 05 Aug 2009


Hrajinder and his likes need a history lesson by Harjinder's dead conscience on 05 Aug 2009

..and some conscience. India has no dearth of ignoramous people without any conscience or knowledge of history like Harjinder.

We live in a society consumed by bias and hatred by Mitra on 05 Aug 2009

Harjinder's comments shows how our society is consumed by bias and hatred.Even for a legendary freedom fighter's family, we cannot go beyond the fact of his Muslim surname. Sometimes, I feel ashamed to be an Indian.

Shame on you Harjinder by Sujeet Ramanna, Bombay on 05 Aug 2009

@HarjinderNow you have a problem with the truth. This coming from a man whos father fought for our freedom, that we all take for granted. Shame on you Harjinder for being such a racist, even it comes to our freedom fighters. And shame on all of us, Indians that we cannot give this freedom fighters son back his place in Amritsar!

Shameful Journalism by Harjinder on 05 Aug 2009

This seems to be an article sposnered and funded by saudi islamic fundamentalists. Why cant IE and the rest of 3rd rate indian media also highlight issues of hindu kashmmiri pandits, policemen families killed by maoists/terrorists or families of freedom fighters butchered and raped by islamic fundamentalists in pakistani side of undivided india or is it that you guys dont get islamic or evangalist funding and hence may not be worth the while

Shameful.... by Amit Purohit on 05 Aug 2009

My head hangs in shame.We all are culprits to him and many unknown and unnoticed veterans who fought for us.Accolades have been reserved for the .............I dont want to spell whom but I believe all know.

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